3 games kids can play with dogs
Written by Louise Glazebrook
Games kids can play with dogs

Right, the first thing to say here, is that with any game involving kids and dogs, is that we need to prevent issues occuring or causing any problems so I’m going to ask that any game played, you are there to supervise but also have treats at the ready to reward should it take your child an age to get the treat out or they throw it in the wrong direction. We don’t want your puppy or dog becoming frustrated or impatient and then jump up to get the treat or toy quicker. So as part of your prep work, please make sure you have your own little pot of treats ready to be dipped into.

How do we teach kids to play nicely with a dog?

It’s important to establish ‘the rules’ before you start playing with your child and you could ask them to help you decide what these rules are e.g. we don’t push a dog, pull a dog, we don’t grab any body parts of the dog, we won’t take anything off of the dog or pull things from it’s mouth and so forth. We don’t want your dog to associate playing with your child as a negative, stressful or anxiety inducing time. 

If your child/ren are old enough, you can ask them to make their own little poster or rule book – my kids love doing this type of thing. 

If you have younger kids, I always tend to use a stuffed version of a dog first, when my kids were smaller, we used to ‘practise’ with this one first – so we could discuss anything that wasn’t quite working. 

Another option with smaller kids e.g. 2-4yrs old is to let them do the game with their toy dog / favourite animal toy whilst you do the game with your actual dog. So your dog gets used to your child being around and playing but isn’t directly concerned with your actual dog – especially if you are trying to teach a younger child how to kindly interact with animals. 

What games can children play with our dog?

I’ve created three games for you and your children, all are ones that I do with my own children and Pip loves them all.

The cup of treats game –

You will need a cup your child can hold really easily in one hand and some low value treats – something your dog likes but isn’t going to crazy for, as we don’t want excitement around treats to drive behaviours like jumping up because they are so desperate to get to the super smelly treats. 

Simply ask your child to hold the cup and call their dog over e.g. Bobby come here…and as soon as your dog comes over ask your child to throw one treat from the cup onto the floor for the puppy or dog to sniff out. And repeat until the cup is empty, so that your puppy or dog learns to hear their name, to respond to it and then a treat gets thrown onto the floor for them to snuffle and find. When the game is done, allow your dog to sniff the empty cup and tell them ‘all finished’ and put the cup in the dishwasher. 

This game is great for: keeping a dog at a distance, building a child’s confidence but with no need for lots of touching and licking, jumping up etc. If your puppy is a bit bitey and needs to calm down, this can be a great game to do, in the garden so they are sniffing around in the grass for the treats.

The recycling game –

Ask your child to go through your recycling box and choose some cardboard boxes, packaging that is safe for a puppy to play with. 

At the table, sit and help your child to create a ‘toy’ that your dog will love – e.g. cutting out a hole from a side of a box and inserting a kitchen roll tube through it, with a treat inside. Poking holes into cardboard sides and inserting treats for your puppy to dismantle and pull out. 

Or you can take an empty cardboard box and then fill it with pieces of paper that you ask your child to scrunch up into balls. Then take the box full of scrunched balls over to your puppy and ask your child to pop it on the floor. From above, ask your child to drop treats into the box and amongst the paper – then let your puppy come in and sniff them all out. Keep adding to the treats in the box by just dropping them in from above. Do not allow children to interfere or put their hands in, always get the treats dropped in from above at a distance. 

This game is great for: puppies who are teething, kids who like to make things and for helping a puppy see that the child being present can be a positive thing. 

The run and leave the toy game

I still play this game with my kids now, who are 10yrs and 8yrs old and it really tires any dog out but is especially great for rainy days, dogs with too much energy and you need to wear everyone out!

You just need a pot or vessel or paper cup or tupperware container and some smelly treats.

Standing at your back door (if you have a garden) or if not, you can do it in a hallway or similar. 

Start by simply putting down the paper cup with a treat in it and let your dog put their nose in and get the treat out – make sure the cup is wide enough so it won’t get stuck. Repeat this about 10x.

Then one of you hold onto your dog or if you have a back door with glass, allow your child to go outside and you shut the door so your dog can see them. Let them run into the garden and place the cup and treat down a few metres away from the door. Then run back and open the door and tell the puppy or dog ‘where’s the cup’ and let them out to go and find it and take the treat.

Repeat and each time make it a few cm’s further away from the back door. You can eventually start to do things like send your child out and ask them to put the cup behind a plant pot and come back and then let the dog out, slowly making it harder. But that would be after a week or so of playing it everyday and your dog understanding the idea of it.

This game is great for: if you have an active dog who loves to use their nose, a child who likes to do things on their own but without there being any risk to the dog and child being alone together, for using up energy for a dog or puppy who needs to do something, when you can’t leave the house as you need to wait in for a delivery. 

Each month I release a treat bag that can be purchased on my website, these are great for playing games, doing training and motivating your puppy or dog. You can find out more about these here.

Need help with your adult dog?

Whether you’re considering getting a rescue dog, or have a change in your life that you and your dog need help with, I can support you. 


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